I saw Star Trek Into Darkness (what does that title even mean?) on Friday morning. I expect I’ll have forgotten most of it by mid-summer. It’s that kind of movie. Oh, I’ll remember that I mostly enjoyed it well enough — with reservations. I’ll remember the plot twist (which wasn’t hard to guess). I’ll remember the bits pilfered from an earlier Star Trek movie. I’ll also remember that it’s too long for its own good, and that J.J. Abrams isn’t at his best directing action, especially when he tries to tap into his inner Michael Bay. But the specifics of the film will largely have evaporated — much like they did from Abrams’ first entry, Star Trek (2009). I’m not sure that’s really a criticism so much as it’s just something inherent in this sort of thing — unless you’re the kind of enthusiast who’ll see it multiple times. (I know you’re out there.) I’m strictly casual about Star Trek anything — and I’m going to be positively heretical before this review is over. You are warned.
In many respects, I’d rank this slightly above the 2009 film — if only because I did not spend the entire movie wanting to slap Chris Pine. Either Pine has grown into his character of James T. Kirk, or I’ve grown used to Pine. (Since the only thing I’ve seen him in the meantime was the fairly moronic People Like Us last year, I’m guessing Pine himself has improved.) I’ll also admit that I’ll probably remember this film’s central bad guy better than the one in the first film. (I don’t even remember who the bad guy was in the first one or why he was bad.) The relationship between Pine’s Kirk and Zachary Quinto’s Spock feels authentic — much more so than Spock’s relationship with Uhura (Zoe Saldana) — and authentically complex. Indeed, it’s what makes the movie mostly superior to the first one. The plot — a revenge-driven affair that finally morphs into a kind of remake of another film (I’ll get to that in a minute) — certainly isn’t any great shakes, even though it does largely serve in a purely functional manner.
OK, now we’re about to get into the area of spoilers (in modern parlance), so if you haven’t seen the film and desire to keep yourself pure until you consummate your union with it, stop reading — though how you could have missed this I can’t imagine since everyone who hates this film has been advertising it all over the Internet. One of the best things about the film — casting Benedict Cumberbatch as the complex villain of the piece — becomes one of the more troublesome things about the film when it transpires that he is really the legendary Khan. (Nevermind that he doesn’t sound like Ricardo Montalban or have that 1980’s hairdo.) That might have been OK with the purists, but when the film itself starts turning into a variation on Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan (1982), well a lot of Trekkie folks do seem annoyed. Wrath of Khan is a film that the faithful like to festoon with words like “masterpiece.” Not being one of the faithful, I took a squint at Khan — and “masterpiece” did not come to mind. All in all, I thought the new film made better use of the same material, though the arbitrary use of screaming “Khan!” was downright embarrassing.
However, it’s at this point where Abrams proves he really doesn’t have a clue how to stage an epic scene. Oh, sure he has the CGI crew make a spaceship crash into a city, but the impact never hits home. Unlike (it pains me to say) Michael Bay, Abrams doesn’t understand the value of property damage. The event is all so very impersonally observed in such a shrug-inducing manner that it’s hard to imagine anyone even got hurt. Almost as bad — in a different way — is the attempt to generate suspense concerning Kirk’s fate after the film has established the solution twice. Despite these reservations, Star Trek Into Darkness is palatable enough entertainment — with characters who at least offer the illusion of some depth. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence.
Playing at Carolina Cinemas, Co-ed of Brevard, Epic of Hendersonville, Regal Biltmore Grande, United Artists of Hendersonville